Tottenham Hotspurs sealed their ticket to the quarter-final of the FA Cup after an impressive 6-1 win over Rochdale on Wednesday night at Wembley Stadium in a controversial game dominated by use of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology.
The experimental system was put in place as a means to ensure that key decisions in matches are called correctly by the centre referee. The continuous stoppages in this clash due to VAR’s usage caused unrest to a section of Spurs’ fans.
In this match, a review using the VAR ruled out what seemed like a legitimate goal by Erick Lamela in the sixth minute who got on the end of a rebound after goalkeeper Josh Lillis kept out Son Heung-Min’s effort. After about a two minute delay, referee Paul Tierney overturned the goal as Fernando Llorente was adjudged to have committed a foul prior to the goal.
Son dusted himself in the 23rd minute to curl in his effort to the right corner of the post. VAR came into play four minutes later as Kieran Trippier was pulled back in what appeared to be just outside the box. Replays showed that the move spiralled into the box and a penalty was given. Son stepped up to convert the penalty that was also ruled out by officials as Son had stopped in his run-up to take the spot kick and subsequently booked by Tierney.
This confusion allowed the visitors to grab an equaliser barely four minutes later when Stephen Humphrys made a smart run in between the Spurs defence after being released by Andrew Cannon to slot the ball past Michel Vorm in goal.
The towering Llorente cleverly chipped Lillis two minutes after the restart before adding a second in the 53rd minute. He completed his first hat trick for Spurs just before the hour mark after connecting with Son’s cross. Son and Walker-Peters piled more misery on Rochdale by scoring the final two goals as the curtains came down on a highly controversial match.
Spurs’ boss Mauricio Pochenttino weighed in on the VAR and its impact after the match. “I am not sure that the system is going to help. Football is about emotion. It is a contest of emotion and if we are going to kill emotion in football, the fans, the people who love football are not so happy about what they saw,” he told Telegraph.
It was a disappointing end for the League One side’s campaign after bravely forcing Spurs into this replay. Swansea City will be the next opponents for Pochenttino’s men at the Liberty Stadium on March 17.